The magic and power of keeping it simple

Steve Jobs

It is a remarkable ability to make the complex simple. Too often ideas and plans don’t work because they are too complicated. People who can describe their ideas with crystal clarity get results.

People who keep their plans simple get things done.

There are lots of stories of how Apple’s Steve Jobs sent ideas back to the drawing board because he wanted them more simple. Not less remarkable or innovative, but more simple. One of the first iPod prototypes had too many buttons and switches so Jobs rejected it and demanded of his engineers that it maintained all of the functionality, but was more simple. You know what we ended up with.

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”

Steve Jobs (Tweet this)

Here’s a way to keep planning simple.
On one page, in fact.

1. On the top of your page you write what your vision is. What will the future (of the product or project or organisation) look like?
2. Now work out the five most important things that you must get right in order for your vision to become reality. Not 15 or 35, just five (plus or minus two). List these as columns underneath the vision (as if they are supporting it).
3. List the specific goals in each of the five areas. State them using numbers if possible – what gets measured, gets managed.
4. Decide what are the most urgent priorities right now.
5. Design and implement a 90 day project to achieve the most important goal.
6. Repeat.

Free Plan On A Page Template 

Leaders need to make sure the vision is clear and that people are working on the most important things to achieve it. A Plan On A Page is a technique to make it happen. And it’s yours for free.  Click here to download.


You can’t steer a parked car

parked car

One of the reasons I love to teach is that I learn so much! In a recent session on leadership a student* was making an excellent point about the need for action to follow vision. “You can’t steer a parked car,” he said. It doesn’t matter where your intended destination is, if you don’t turn the car on, put it in gear and release the parking brake and put your foot down, you have achieved nothing.

I am passionate about helping organisations and individuals to imagine a picture of a bright future – a vision. It is not always easy as the day to day grind and focus in the business often makes it hard for us to work on the business, and see what the future might look like. Once a vision has been imagined, described and agreed on, the next most important thing is taking action to move towards it.

One of the foundation steps in the Licence to Lead Leadership Development Model (click here to see it) is ACTION. We highlight the importance of a planning framework that helps us work on the most important priorities first and the need to be masters of time management to allow high levels of productivity. Then we show you how to do it.

Leaders need to talk. But they also need to walk (or drive the car) towards the achievement of the vision.

*Thanks to Simon Ashley of ATUNE Health Centres for this gem of wisdom.

Imagination – vital for leadership

AlbertEinsteinOriginalOilPortraitPaintingbyArtistDerekRussell2012Copyright-2-e1370819353433 (1) 2

“Imagination is more important than intelligence.” Albert Einstein.

One of the ways I keep current with leadership matters and thought leaders around the world is to follow the blogs of a number of gurus. One of them is a guy called Mark Miller. A recent blog really appealed to me so I have included some thoughts from it here. It is about the importance of imagination in leadership.

He makes the point that leaders try to get us to a future that doesn’t yet exist. They imagine it first. They also imagine the path that will lead to the future – that’s called strategy.

They get us to imagine the benefits of this future place. Sometimes they get us to imagine the consequences if we don’t go on the journey.

Leadership can be a serious task and we can get caught up in it, but we need to keep our ability to imagine and even develop our imagination.

Einstein also said “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

What are you imagining for your organisation’s future?

PS: The image of Einstein is by Derek Russell. Thank you to Derek for allowing me to share his great work.

Change – friend or foe?

Welcome mat

There are three constants in life. Death, taxes and change. Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, said “nothing endures but change”. If we accept that change keeps happening, why then do so many of us avoid it, ignore it and turn our back on it, sort of like how we would treat someone that we really didn’t like?

What would happen if you treated change like an old, welcomed friend? Life would be different for us if we expected change to drop in at any time.  And when it did we would embrace it and work out how to deal with it. This change in attitude might just be life changing for us.

Change is a key concept in leadership. Leading is all about change. Leaders look at what they have in front of them, imagine a vision of a better future, develop a plan for moving towards that future, then act. They make change happen.

The next time change knocks on your front door, are you going to shoo it away, telling it it’s not welcome here, or are you going to embrace it, ask it in and then work out how to deal with it?

Ding, dong – sorry, gotta go, someone’s at the front door.

The number 1 priority if you want to lead – take responsibility for culture



The number one priority for a leader is to take ultimate responsibility for the culture of their organisation.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a multi-national, a footy club, a university or a small business. Culture develops over time and it is the cumulative result of what goes on inside the organisation.

A poor culture will be characterised by ineffective communication, tension, poor performance and unhappy people. A strong culture will be typified by collaboration, pride, loyalty and excellence.

These things, good and bad, don’t happen overnight. They are the result of what the leader does and says. Poor culture develops when a leader is either unaware of the bad stuff happening or doesn’t act to stop it. The good stuff that leads to a strong positive culture is the result of the standards that the leader sets and demands.

Either way, whatever happens is the responsibility of the leader. Not fair? Suck it up, the responsibility is what comes with leadership.

Aspiring leaders who know they don’t have all the answers take action to increase their leadership capability.



PS: Even if you are not the leader of your organisation, you can still take responsibility for the culture of your team, group or those people around you.

Leadership is about creating ripples of influence

ripples on a pond

You are standing on a river bank. The water is still and calm. There is no wind. You take a rock, throw it high in the air and it lands in the middle with a loud plop.

This single action results in a series of ripples radiating out from where the rock entered the water. They continue to travel outwards, changing the surface of the water, influencing the surroundings.

One simple action resulting in significant influence.

Leading is about influence.

Who are you changing by your actions? Your work mates? Your friends? Members of your family?

Who is feeling the ripples of your influence?

If the answer is no one, perhaps it’s time to increase your leadership capability?

Having more fun at work

Pike Place Fish 2I was reminded recently of a story that I used to use in my training about a company that placed a great emphasis on having fun in the workplace. It led to high levels of staff engagement, loyal customers and a worldwide reputation.

The story is about a fish shop in Seattle called Pike Place Fish. The shop became more famous when a book and video was made about it and used internationally to encourage us to create environments where people had fun at work. At Pike Place Fish the staff yell out the orders and literally throw your fish across the shop to be wrapped. Customers go there partly for the fish and partly for the experience.

Why is having fun at work so rare? If you consider that many of us spend half our waking hours at work, it strikes me as even more important that we like it and have fun. What can you do to create an environment that is more conducive to people enjoying themselves? The website below will give you some ideas.

You might be wondering what having fun has to do with leadership? I believe it is the responsibility of the leader to create an environment that gets the best out of people, and that is more likely to happen if they are having fun.

PS: Go to for more info on Pike Place Fish. The above photo was taken by my client and friend Richard Tonkin from Bulbeck EnviroSolutions when he visited Seattle, especially to experience Pike Place Fish, which I had told him about years before!